Lefty has two-shot edge in Shanghai

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Phil Mickelson has opened up a two-stroke lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions, but nothing is cut and dried just yet.

Phil Mickelson has opened up a two-stroke lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions, but nothing is cut and dried just yet.
Not with players of the calibre of world number one Tiger Woods and fellow American Nick Watney still strongly in contention and indeed right up alongside him in the final group for Sunday’s highly-anticipated final round.
With reversed wind conditions changing the entire make-up of the course on Sturday, 2007 champion Mickelson dropped just one shot in the third round for a five-under-par 67 – the only sub-70 score from the leading contenders.
While Woods’ bid for a 17th WGC title faltered with a unproductive back nine which led to a two-under 70, Mickelson picked up three gains over his final five holes including a lead boosting birdie at the last to move to 14 under overall.
Watney, second round leader with Woods, also posted a battling 70, while Ryan Moore matched his playing partners to sit three behind the leader.
European order of merit leader Lee Westwood is also firmly in the hunt at 10 under following a sparkling seven-under-par 65 that finally broke up the American dominated leaderboard.
“The weather was more difficult with the winds being stronger and from a different direction and I was pleased to shoot 67,” said world number two Mickelson.
“I made more birdies, but I didn’t make too many big mistakes. I had the bogey on nine, but kept the ball in play and took advantage of the other birdie holes.
“The course played kind of backwards with birdie holes being more difficult with the wind and holes which are normally the challenging pars were the birdie holes.”
Left-handed Mickelson has an impressive 73% conversion rate when leading heading into the final round, with his last coming as he edged out Watney to win a first WGC title at March’s CA Championship.
And after being forced to play a right-handed shot in his final round at Doral, Mickelson sees it as a sign after a similar play from behind a tree in Shanghai salvaged a bogey, which accounted for only his second dropped shot of the week.
“I was up against a tree and took a pitching wedge and flipped it over and chipped out onto the fairway,” he explained.
“I said to my caddy after I did that, I thought that was a good omen because I ended up winning at Doral having to hit a right-handed shot. I thought that might be a good omen even though it led to a bogey.”
While Woods holds the advantage when the duo are paired together, Mickelson claimed the bragging rights in the final round of The Masters earlier this year although both will hope for better end results this week after Angel Cabrera walked away from Augusta with the green jacket.
Woods has just under a one-in-three chance of completing the comeback win tomorrow as he looks to better back-to-back runner-up finishes on his last two trips to Shanghai, but will need to rediscover the form which led to back-to-back opening rounds of 67.
“It was a little bit more difficult. I didn’t putt as well as I did on the first two days. I didn’t make as many putts and consequently I was three shots worse off,” Woods said.
“Nick and I have a chance and we are going to have to go out and obviously play well. For me to win the championship, I’m going to have to play well and make some putts.”

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